The Robert Gordon (born abt 1784-1854) of the Seton-Gordon branch of Scotland in America - DNA and conventional research







The Gordon DNA Project:

Using DNA analysis as a genealogical research tool

DNA projects are ambiguous at times, but after nearly three years of following DNA testing in the Gordon group and others, the following is what I have surmised.

The projects are a numbers game - i.e. the more participants, the better the chances of eventually finding a match - both expected and unexpected. This is why it is in the best interest of all interested parties to have a critical mass of participants. Then, it is simply a waiting game for those of us who have already taken the test because eventually other Gordons will deduce that a couple hundred dollars spent on the testing is relatively cheap when considering the possibility of making potential leaps in research and saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars. In the end, though not as quickly as some are lead to believe, the matches will follow.

Probably the biggest lesson is - it is not so much to whom the DNA tells you that you related to, as much as it tells to whom you are NOT related. To date, the DNA testing has saved considerable research by eliminating erroneous leads stemming from complementary traditional paper-based research and baseless claims by other researchers. Hence, the DNA testing has been essential to backing up what what has already been documented. You might even say that it is now hard to accept anything without some supporting DNA evidence.

Two examples: My family had a legend suggesting that we were related to the Civil War General - John B. Gordon. Research done in the 1930s suggested that my ancestor was possibly a first cousin of the general and that the general stopped to visit my ancestors. [Incidentally, my family also has mentions of ties to the famed scout Kit Carson of Madison Co. KY and this has yet to be proven] The DNA evidence dispelled our claim to the general, thanks to a well-documented descendant that is participating in the DNA project.

A second example of DNA success is that there appeared to have been at least twelve different Gordon families in Madison Co. KY in the 1790s. To further complicate things, there were two Robert Gordons (incl. mine) that moved from Madison Co. to TN in the early 1800s and this has been a nightmare to unravel because I could not tell if the two Roberts were the same. One Robert Gordon moved to Maury and Giles Co. TN. The other (my Robert Gordon) moved to Warren Co. TN.

According to results from the Gordon DNA project, neither of these Robert Gordons were related to each other, nor did either of them carry the same DNA as the aforementioned Gen. John B. Gordon's descendants. This has helped me further untangle possible bloodlines.

With regards to the 37-marker test, it seems to me that anyone who is serious about using DNA as a tool to prove / disprove familial ties will probably want to upgrade to the 37-marker.

For more information on participating in the Gordon DNA Project, please see The Gordon DNA Project Official Homepage: established by the co-project coordinator Janice McGough.